Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 35 (4):665-696 (2015)

Authors
Nicola Lacey
London School of Economics
Hanna Pickard
Johns Hopkins University
Abstract
What do you do when faced with wrongdoing—do you blame or do you forgive? Especially when confronted with offences that lie on the more severe end of the spectrum and cause terrible psychological or physical trauma or death, nothing can feel more natural than blame. Indeed, in the UK and the USA, increasingly vehement and righteous public expressions of blame and calls for vengeance have become commonplace; correspondingly, contemporary penal philosophy has witnessed a resurgence of the retributive tradition, in the modern form usually known as the ‘justice’ model. On the other hand, people can and routinely do forgive others, even in cases of severe crime. Evolutionary psychologists argue that both vengeance and forgiveness are universal human adaptations that have evolved as alternative responses to exploitation, and, crucially, strategies for reducing risk of re-offending. We are naturally endowed with both capacities: to blame and retaliate, or to forgive and seek to repair relations. Which should we choose? Drawing on evolutionary psychology, we offer an account of forgiveness and argue that the choice to blame, and not to forgive, is inconsistent with the political values of a broadly liberal society and can be instrumentally counter-productive to reducing the risk of future re-offending. We then sketch the shape of penal philosophy and criminal justice policy and practice with forgiveness in place as a guiding ideal
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DOI 10.1093/ojls/gqv012
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References found in this work BETA

Articulating an Uncompromising Forgiveness.Pamela Hieronymi - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (3):529-555.
Wiping the Slate Clean: The Heart of Forgiveness.Lucy Allais - 2008 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 36 (1):33–68.
Psychopathology and the Ability to Do Otherwise.Hanna Pickard - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (1):135-163.
Forgivingness.Robert C. Roberts - 1995 - American Philosophical Quarterly 32 (4):289 - 306.

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Citations of this work BETA

Approaching or Re-thinking the Realm of Criminal Law?Nicola Lacey - 2020 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 14 (3):307-318.
Reverse‐Engineering Blame 1.Paulina Sliwa - 2019 - Philosophical Perspectives 33 (1):200-219.
Guilt and Shame, Justice and Mercy.Jonathan Rothchild - 2020 - Journal of Religious Ethics 48 (3):418-435.

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